Most people today use smart phones; they really have simplified our life. Smart cars (not the automobile branch!) we have heard of and some are even driving those cars that help their drivers with parking, warn them when they get to close to the median, or even react to talking commands. But smart contact lenses? That’s news for me.
Since I am wearing contacts regularly, I immediately got interested in the smart ones. So I started following some experts in that field on the web.
Controlling our health
What became clear very soon, is that these smart contacts will not improve the eyesight.
As Duncan Graham-Rowe, a British journalist for science, technology and environment, reports in the New Scientist Tech that new contact lenses have been developed that can help people with diseases like diabetes and glaucoma.
Babak Parviz, Associate Director of the Micro-scale Life Sciences Center at the University of Washington, managed to develop a contact lens that is able to monitor the blood sugar level of people with diabetes through measuring the glucose level in tear fluid. This information shall then be send to a portable device which is worn by diabetics.
Duncan Graham-Rowe also states that in September 2010, the Swiss spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne Sensimed, introduced the contact lens Triggerfish onto the market that was created to help treating people with glaucoma, an eye disorder that can damage the optic nerve if not treated, through building up fluid pressure in the eye. That can lead to permanently damaged vision. The Triggerfish monitors a change of the cornea, an indicator for the pressure in the eye. Worn once for 24 hours and repeated a few times a year, the contact lens can help finding the right timing and apportioning of medications.
Putting the virtual world together with the real world
According to Wesley Fenlon on Smart Contact Lenses Pave the Way for Augmented Reality, Babak Parviz’s lab is also working on developing contact lenses that simulate 3D effects, similar to 3D movies. They already were able to create tiny blue and red LEDs and lenses that support 3D optics.
What is missing still to create lenses that provide augmented reality, the ability to overlay the virtual world onto the real world, and thereby combine the two, like a bionic eye used in movies such as Terminator, is the combination of many LEDs in one contact lens.
However, Babak Parviz assures that “Those components will eventually include hundreds of LEDs, which will form images in front of the eye, such as words, charts, and photographs.” (source)
So we will soon have 3D images in our direct field of vision like a head-up display in our eyes. Won’t that get very confusing for the wearer of those contacts?
According to Babak Parviz in his blog post Augmented Reality in a Contact Lens “Much of the hardware is semitransparent so that wearers can navigate their surroundings without crashing into them or becoming disoriented.”
Other further developments might be a contact lens that can measure the cholesterol or alcohol level in our blood and immediately send you a warning message.
“The ultimate goal would be to have a fully fledged display,” says Dr Parviz.
Yes. And don’t we all sometimes wish for augmented reality?
If you still don’t believe that all this someday will be possible and some of it already is, go to http://augmentedrealityoverview.blogspot.com/2011/06/smart-contact-lens.html and you will be convinced.